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More than 50 Moree residents took the opportunity to voice their concerns and find out more about the Narrabri to North Star Inland Rail project at a drop-in information session at Balo Square on Wednesday.
The information session was run by Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)’s Narrabri to North Star project team members, who were on hand to answer questions about the project now that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been released.
“It’s really to allow people to learn more about the project and encourage their feedback to make it the best possible project it can be,” Narrabri to North Star project manager Benjamin Wells said.
“For 18 months we’ve been developing the Environmental Impact Statement and have done studies of traffic, flora and fauna, cultural heritage, flooding, noise and vibration impacts.
“We’ve outlined how we will mitigate and minimise these impacts and now we encourage submissions.”
The Narrabri to North Star section will involve the upgrade of 185km of existing track to accommodate the operation of future planned 1,800m double-stacked freight trains, as well as construction of 3km of new railway at Camurra to bypass the existing hairpin curve.
The project will also involve providing a new road bridge over the existing rail corridor at Jones Avenue in Moree and the Newell Highway near Bellata, as well as re-establishing and/or expanding drainage works next to the track, level crossing works, replacing existing culverts and bridges at the Mehi and Gwydir rivers, establishing crossing loops and minor changes to track alignments at Bellata, Gurley and Moree stations.
Most residents who attended the information sessions were impressed with the project, believing the Inland Rail to be a positive thing for the region.
“It’s one of the biggest developments we’ve seen in a long time, probably since the early days of rail,” John Atkins said.
However, there were a number of residents who took the opportunity to raise concerns about flooding, noise and vibration impacts of the project.
One of these was Heather Frey who lives at the end of Morton Street, right next to the railway line, and is concerned of the impact the Inland Rail will have on her house, with 10 to 12 trains expected to come through a day once construction is complete.
“It’s mainly the vibrations on the house that I’m worried about,” she said.
“I’ve been around trains all my life – my father and husband worked on the railway, so it’s not so much the noise but the vibrations; it’s going to be bigger, heavier trains.
“They say they’ll put up a wall but then where’s the floodwater going to go? I did get flooded the last time.”
In response to concerns about flooding, Mr Wells said the future flooding impact is expected to be very similar to the existing impact.
“We know farmers either side of the railway harvest water and are familiar with the way the water collects in a major flood event,” he said.
“The intention is not to impact that.
“Just north of Moree, between the Mehi and Gwydir rivers is the Gwydir catchment. Specific engineering consultations have modelled that regional catchment and the existing railway crosses that catchment at its narrowest point.”
Mr Wells encourages all residents and businesses who have concerns to make a submission online at http://www.majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au.
“The more submissions we get and the more knowledge to come from the community, the better the project can be,” he said.
He also encourages businesses to come along to the next information session to find out how they can get involved during the construction phase.
“One of the conditions of approval is that we must use local industry,” he said.
“We want to encourage that. Councils also have a role to play in facilitating local businesses’ involvement.
“Construction will also mean lots of workers, lots of people on site who will need feeding, accommodation.”
The EIS is on public exhibition for 30 days; submissions can be made until December 15. Once all submissions have been received, the project team will prepare a submission report to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, identifying how they can respond to the submissions and incorporate them in a detailed design, which they’ll be working on for all of 2018.
The two-year construction period will begin in 2019, subject to approval.
A second drop-in information session will be held at Balo Square on Tuesday, November 28 from 3pm to 6pm.
This article first appeared on www.moreechampion.com.au
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